Thoughts during Shmira at Dawn

By Shai Reshef, 2023 Shaliach to Gilboa

Editor’s note: Shai went on shlichut to HDNA after finishing three years in the IDF alongside his garin from HaNoar HaOved VeHaLomed. Mere months after doing Shmira (guard duty) at night with fellow madrichimot at Machaneh Gilboa, Shai writes to us from Shmira on his base whilst serving as a reservist.

Good morning? Good night? Not sure what to say. It's 5:30 in the morning, and in another hour, it will already be dawn. But on the other hand, I didn't sleep all night, and I can only start my night at 8:00 AM and sleep for a few hours. In any case, even the word "good" doesn't feel quite appropriate here.

I don't know about you, but I didn't plan for the last few weeks of my life to look the way they do. I was supposed to start working, studying at university, and living with my girlfriend. But then, on an innocent Saturday morning, I woke up in a tent by the Kineret, and suddenly my friends told me to get up because there was a war, and they started telling me the first things they heard about what was happening in the Gaza Strip. Honestly, I didn't believe it at first, couldn't believe it. I told myself they were probably exaggerating. Maybe Hamas had fired some rockets at us, and perhaps they had even managed to carry out a few isolated attacks, but surely, it wouldn't be more than that. It would be fine.

Spoiler alert: I was wrong.

We packed up our camping gear, and on the way home, I started to grasp the magnitude of the horrors. It was unfathomable, descriptions of a reality I couldn't even imagine, and above all, utter chaos and a lot of uncertainty. At that point, I also began to understand that I would likely get called up to the reserves, and not long later, I started receiving messages and phone calls from the IDF. That's it; they called me up to the war. I was very anxious - I didn't know where I was going, for how long, what I would do there - and frankly, I was afraid.

But in the end (with some help), I pulled myself together and realized that it was time to go. The next day, I was already at the base, and I received my uniform, weapon, and equipment, becoming a soldier once again. Since then, I've been here. My unit serves in the West Bank, and luckily, it's quite calm here, and we hope it stays that way. Instead of working, studying, and enjoying life, I'm doing rounds of guard duty, but it's not like my head is really free to focus on other things right now. Here and there, between shifts, we hear about another terrible event from that day or about a friend who was killed that day. Sometimes, we talk about it more, sometimes less, and then we continue to the next shift.

And now, the sky is starting to get a bit brighter. The sun hasn't risen yet, but it's getting closer, which means that my guard duty is nearing its end, and I can finally go to sleep.